US 7151891 B1
The invention provides means within an improved vapor dispensing device to accommodate or compensate for multiple orientations of an outlet into which the device is to be inserted. Orientation compensation is accomplished by inverted and/or rotatable electrical adapters, universal contacts on a base member, enlarged passive dispersion channels, enlarged emanators, multiple emanators, baffles cooperating with an emanator, and/or sleeves encasing multiple wicks to allow for operation of the device in multiple orientations.
1. A vapor-dispensing device of the type configured to connect to an electrical receptacle having a first outlet and a second outlet, comprising:
an orientation sensor;
a first heating element activated by said orientation sensor in a first device orientation;
a second heating element activated by said orientation sensor in a second device orientation; and
a removable refill body containing a volatile material to be heated by at least one of said first and second heating elements with said device in said first and second orientations.
2. A refill for a vapor-dispensing device of the type configured to be inserted into a polar electrical receptacle, said refill comprising:
a reservoir containing a volatile material;
a first wick in communication with said emanator and said volatile material,
a first sleeve extending the length of said first wick, said first sleeve formed of an impermeable material and configured to selectively prevent capillary transport of a volatile material through said first wick based on an orientation of said refill.
3. The refill of
a second wick in communication with said volatile material; and
a second sleeve extending the length of said second wick and configured to allow capillary transport through said second wick when said first sleeve prevents capillary transport through said first wick.
4. The refill of
This invention generally relates to a vapor-dispensing device, and more particularly to a multiple-outlet vapor dispensing device.
Vapor-dispensing devices of the type inserted into common electrical outlets are generally known. Many such devices require a particular positioning or orientation relative to the outlet due to the polar configuration and dimensioning of the electrical prongs and corresponding outlet openings. For example, in the United States, many standard polar two-prong devices include a larger prong and a smaller prong corresponding respectively to the two electrical poles and differentiated openings of the wall outlet. Some devices require that the poles and thus the prongs be aligned for proper operation of the device. Other devices may employ the polar plug design merely to provide improved stability, particularly if the device does not have a third prong for grounding.
Problems may arise, however, when electricians install a polar or other standard outlet upside down, which is sometimes an industry practice used to indicate when the outlet is coupled to a light switch. In such cases, orienting a device having polar prongs with the inverted polar outlet may cause inferior performance, instability or failure of the device. In the case of air fresheners or other devices employing a liquid medium, it is a concern that inversion of the device may result in condensation or leakage of the liquid medium. Furthermore, various dispenser components such as wicks, emanators, or dispersion passages may rely on gravity or may be otherwise dependent on a particular orientation. Similarly, problems may be encountered when a device is plugged into an outlet that is installed horizontally.
Accordingly, there is a need for means to properly orient such devices relative to an inverted outlet and/or for means to render such devices capable of operation in multiple orientations.
While the way that the present invention addresses the disadvantages of the prior art will be discussed in greater detail below, in general, the present invention provides means associated with a dispensing device for compensating for various orientations of an outlet into which the device is to be inserted.
In accordance with various aspects of the present invention, operational independence of a dispenser and/or reservoir relative to an outlet orientation may be accomplished with a base member configured to be oriented independent of the outlet orientation, a reservoir configured to be oriented independent of a base member orientation, a reservoir and associated dispenser configured to operate in multiple orientations, or a pair of sleeved wicks configured for selective transport of dispersible material based upon device orientation.
A more complete understanding of the present invention may be derived by referring to the detailed description and claims when considered in connection with the Figures, wherein like reference numerals refer to similar elements throughout the Figures, and
The following description is of exemplary embodiments of the invention only, and is not intended to limit the scope, applicability or configuration of the invention in any way. Rather, the following description is intended to provide a convenient illustration for implementing various embodiments of the invention. As will become apparent, various changes may be made in the function and arrangement of the elements described in these embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth herein. It should be appreciated that the description herein may be adapted to be employed with alternatively configured devices having different shapes, components, delivery mechanisms and the like and still fall within the scope of the present invention. Thus, the detailed description herein is presented for purposes of illustration only and not of limitation.
Various outlet orientation compensating means are disclosed herein in the exemplary context of air fresheners. That being said, the present invention may be used with any vapor-dispensing products. Such products typically include a volatizable material and a transport system configured to facilitate evaporation of the volatizable material into the surrounding air. Exemplary volatizable materials include fragrances, air fresheners, deodorizers, odor eliminators, odor counteractants, insecticides, insect repellants, medicinal substances, disinfectants, sanitizers, mood enhancers, and aroma therapy compositions. Thus, “air freshener” as used herein refers to any vapor dispensing device similarly described in connection with polarized dual-outlet receptacles. That being said, such air fresheners may be used in connection with any configuration or orientation of receptacle.
Air fresheners may be passive in operation, i.e., they may operate by ambient evaporation without the need for additional energy input to the system, or they may be active, requiring additional energy input, for example, in the form of heating elements or fans. Conventional air fresheners often include a refillable or replaceable reservoir.
An exemplary air freshener according to the present invention comprises a low profile dispensing device that resembles a standard dual electrical outlet and includes a base member having at least one pair of electrical prongs for insertion into an electrical wall outlet, a secondary electrical outlet, and a heating element for heating a volatile material. A replaceable or refillable reservoir containing volatile material is attachable to the base member and associated with a dispenser, e.g., an emanator pad. The device further includes orientation compensating means allowing for upright orientation of the reservoir, base member, dispenser and/or other components independent of the orientation of the wall outlet (e.g., upright, horizontal, or inverted). “Upright,” as used herein refers to a target or default orientation.
Orientational and/or operational independence of the reservoir or dispenser relative to the outlet orientation may be accomplished by numerous configurations. For example, briefly, one embodiment includes a base member configured to be oriented independent of an outlet orientation. Another embodiment includes a reservoir configured to be oriented independent of a base member orientation. Another embodiment includes a reservoir and associated dispenser configured to operate in multiple orientations. Yet another embodiment includes a pair of sleeved wicks configured for alternate operation depending upon orientation. In sum, any number of air freshener components may be configured to accommodate multiple wall outlet orientations or multiple air freshener orientations.
For example, with reference to
In an alternative embodiment, heating elements 10 and 12 may be simultaneously powered regardless of the orientation of base 4. Heating elements 10 and 12 may be further configured to operate periodically or continuously. In another embodiment, selective activation of heating elements 10 and 12 may be manual or automatic through use of any other suitable control or sensor. Any number of heating elements may be used, configured, and located to suitably volatize dispersible materials with the device in multiple orientations.
With reference now to
Alternatively, emanator 16 may be configured in any manner suitable to allow for controlled dispensing of volatile materials with the reservoir in at least an upright and an inverted orientation. For example, as shown in
In yet another embodiment shown in
In various other embodiments of device 2, any number of device components may be configured to accommodate various wall outlet or device component orientations. One such exemplary embodiment, includes spacing reservoir 6 a sufficient distance from base 4 to allow sufficient air flow past emanator 16 and/or providing an enlarged emanator 16 to accommodate any excess or variations in the transport or dispersion of volatile materials resulting from the various device orientations. Alternatively, use of a smaller quantity of volatile material, as with a smaller reservoir 6 or smaller emanator 16, may serve to reduce leakage in the event that device 2 is inverted. Similarly, in embodiments employing a wick to transport volatile material from reservoir 6 to emanator 14, the wick may be configured to meter capillary transport regardless of device orientation, for example by altering the composition or porosity of the wick. In another embodiment, the composition of the volatile material may be selected to achieve substantially uniform delivery regardless of orientation, for example, by use of a gel instead of an oil carrier.
In another embodiment shown in
With continued reference to
Electrical leads 34 and electrical contacts 32 may be further configured as the means of attachment between base plate 18 and outlet body 20. This may be accomplished, for example, by configuring electrical contacts 32 to securely receive or otherwise attachably engage heating element leads 34. For example, in one embodiment, electrical leads 34 include protruding posts and electrical contacts 32 include grooves for receiving the protruding posts. Electrical contacts 32 of outlet body 20 and electrical leads 34 of base plate 18 may be configured in any suitable manner to allow for proper orientation of heating element 10 and/or other dispensing mechanism relative to an upright, inverted, or rotated outlet body 20.
Alternatively, base plate 18 or reservoir 6 may be press-fitted, snap-fitted, slidably fitted or otherwise suitably attached to outlet body 20 to cause electrical leads 34 to engage electrical contacts 32. Reservoir 6 and base plate 18 may be separately attachable to outlet body 20. Alternatively, reservoir 6 may attach to base plate 18 and the combination may then attach to outlet body 20. It is understood that reservoir 6, base plate 18, and outlet body 20 may be assembled and attached in any suitable manner. That being said, any of the embodiments described herein may be used with purely passive delivery systems as well, i.e., without the need for heating element 10, electrical contacts 32, electrical leads 34, fans, or the like. For example, a simple wick and emanator 16 associated with reservoir 6 may be maintained upright by any number of means described herein.
In accordance with one embodiment, device 2 is specifically configured to accommodate an inverted outlet by means of inverted polar prongs. This may be done by reversing the positions of the larger and smaller prongs. Thus, a reservoir, emanator, and wick may be maintained upright without further structural modifications.
In another embodiment shown in
With reference now to
Another exemplary embodiment includes a baffle(s) adjacent emanator 16 to absorb and/or divert any leaked, condensed, or excess volatile dispersible materials released in a given orientation of the device. Baffles may be associated with emanator 16 or any other dispensing mechanism or other device component. One exemplary baffle is composed of an absorptive material placed in close proximity to emanator 16. Baffle may be any material or structure configured to absorb, stop, divert, or otherwise contain leaked or condensed volatile materials. In one embodiment, baffles are provided on two sides of emanator 16, one to contain leakage, the other to contain condensation.
With reference now to
In one embodiment, sleeves 104 and/or 108 may extend the full length of wick 102 and 106 or beyond such that wicks 102 and 106 contact dispersible materials within the sleeve. Alternatively, sleeves 104 and 108 may include any means to allow absorption of dispersible materials, for example, perforations or other openings towards one end or a bell formation around and/or past the end of wicks 102 and 106 to allow increased contact with dispersible materials in a given orientation.
In yet another embodiment shown in
As discussed above, wicks 102 and 106 need not extend beyond sleeves 104 and 108 to contact the dispersible materials. For example, in one embodiment, sleeves 104 and 108 may be dimensioned to provide an open annular chamber around a length of wicks 102 and 106. Accordingly, dispersible liquids may flow into the annular chamber up to the level of the liquid in reservoir 6. In one embodiment, wicks 102 and 106 and sleeves 104 and 108 may be configured at an angle within reservoir 6 such that liquids may flow from the annular chamber as reservoir 6 is rotated between positions. Any suitable means of allowing contact or blocking contact with dispersible materials by wicks 102 and 106 may be used in accordance with the present invention.
By configuring sleeves 104 and 108 to extend the length of wicks 102 and 106, a greater volume of reservoir 6 and/or reservoir compartments 110 and 112 may be filled with dispersible materials. In other words, because the full length of wicks 102 and 106 are shielded, the fluid level may likewise rise to the full length of a shielded wick before fluid transport begins.
Finally, while the present invention has been described above with reference to various exemplary embodiments, many changes, combinations and modifications may be made to the exemplary embodiments without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the various components may be implemented in alternate ways. These alternatives can be suitably selected depending upon the particular application or in consideration of any number of factors associated with the operation of the system. In addition, the techniques described herein may be extended or modified for use with other types of devices. These and other changes or modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention.